It's time to unleash the power of American oil

Fox News

 (Fox News)

President Obama is scheduled to meet this week with Vladimir Putin in New York. The president plans to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its military support of the Assad regime in Syria.

Putin is a bully. He only understands force. That force can come just as effectively from a barrel of oil as from the barrel of a gun. President Obama should back up his talk by unleashing the power of American oil to compel Russia’s cooperation.

American energy is a master resource, a powerful tool that could be used against belligerent nations like Russia and Iran. President Obama has been far too eager to reject that tool or trade it away. 

Since the 1970s, there have been tight restrictions on U.S. oil exports. Most of what we export goes to Canada. Yet American exports could quadruple if the law allowed it.

American energy is a master resource, a powerful tool that could be used against belligerent nations like Russia and Iran. President Obama has been far too eager to reject that tool or trade it away.

Our self-imposed limit gives Russia an added advantage to use oil to fund its aggression. Keeping American oil out of the global market helps keep international prices high, which helps to fund Putin’s belligerence.   

Republicans want to lift these restrictions. Legislation is working its way through both houses of Congress to make that happen. While these bills have bipartisan support, so far, the Obama administration has rejected the idea.

The  meeting at the United Nations would be a perfect moment for the president to reverse course. He should make clear that the United States will use all of the resources at our disposal to curb the actions of hostile nations. Allowing U.S. crude oil exports would concretely, and immediately, empower America’s allies and undermine our adversaries.

Lower oil prices over the past year have hit the Russian economy hard and caused trouble for Putin’s ambitions. More American oil could add to his troubles by increasing global supply.

Sanctions against Iran’s ability to export oil hurt its economy and contributed to forcing Iranians to the negotiating table. Iran’s energy revenue dropped by 47 percent in 2013, and by another 10 percent in 2014.

The Obama administration is preparing to let Iran recapture much of that lost revenue and to reassert itself on the world stage. Some of the money will also end up in the pockets of the terrorists Iran supports. The president compounds the problem by refusing to let America’s oil compete. Iran soon will be able to export four times as much oil as America does.

Even former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has talked about the power of America’s oil. “The U.S. remains the great arsenal of democracy,” he has said. “It should also be the great arsenal of energy.”

Energy can be deployed to restrain the ambitions of our enemies and support our allies around the world. Today, Poland gets 96 percent of its oil from Russia. Belgium gets 60 percent of its oil from Russia and Saudi Arabia. Japan gets 75 percent from Russia and the Middle East. When these countries are negotiating to buy more oil, why wouldn’t we want to give them the option of American oil as an alternative?

Of course, another country that would be helped is Israel. President Obama’s deal with Iran has put Israel in a much more dangerous situation. The White House plans to offer Israel more military aid. They should also give Israel the opportunity to import American oil. The chance to buy crude oil from the U.S. instead of places like Russia would help ensure that Israel’s energy supply is secure and stable.

While the advantages for America’s foreign policy would be great, the benefit here at home is just as real. Adding more of our crude oil to global supplies could lower the price Americans pay at the pump.

A 2014 study by ICF International estimated that Americans would save $5.8 billion per year. The increased economic activity could support an additional 300,000 jobs by 2020.

When President Obama has dealt with Russia, he has been too hesitant to use the economic power of American oil and natural gas. When the president was negotiating with Iran, he freed Iran’s oil producers at the same time he has refused to free America’s.

America must not concede world oil markets to belligerent nations like Russia and Iran. We have the energy resources to stand up to these hostile countries. Now is the time to use these resources.

Republican John Barrasso represents Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. He serves in the Senate as a member of both the Energy and Environment Committees. Follow him on Twitter@SenJohnBarrasso.